The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

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or Betsy Hawkings at 202-544-0200 x347,

Native Advocates Come to DC to Change Policies, Obtain Funds to Combat Sexual Violence

On Monday, July 13, a group of noted Native American and Alaska Native
women advocates will meet with federal lawmakers in Washington, DC, to
advocate for stronger policies and increased funding to combat sexual violence
against Native women and ensure victims' access to care and justice.


On Monday, July 13, a group of noted Native American and Alaska Native
women advocates will meet with federal lawmakers in Washington, DC, to
advocate for stronger policies and increased funding to combat sexual violence
against Native women and ensure victims' access to care and justice.

The meetings come as President Obama announced
a series of initiatives, designed in consultation with tribal leaders,
to address the underlying causes of rising crime and a breakdown of justice
in Indian Country - particularly rape, child sexual assault, domestic
assault and beatings - that in part stem from neglect by federal prosecutors
and investigators.

The advocates are all members of Amnesty
International USA's (AIUSA's) Native American and Alaska Native Advisory
Council, many of whom were consultants or contributors to the organization's
groundbreaking report, Maze of Injustice: the Failure to Protect
Indigenous Women from Sexual Assault in the U.S.A.
They include
Charon Asetoyer, chair of the Advisory Council and executive director of
the Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center; Sarah Deer,
William Mitchell College of Law and the eighth American Indian woman law
professor in the United States; Juskwa Burnett, an advocate currently working
in Oklahoma; Denise Morris, president and CEO of the Alaska Native Justice
Center; and Victoria Ybanez, executive director for Red Wind Consulting,

"Native women will continue to walk the
halls of Congress and meet with high-ranking government officials as long
as our human rights are being violated," said Asetoyer. "When rape
is allowed to occur within our communities with the knowledge of public
officials who are not doing everything in their power to stop this atrocity,
it is time to take action."

While in Washington, the Advisory Council
members will meet with members of Congress and administration officials
to advocate for measures that would help protect Native American and Alaska
Native women from sexual violence, remove obstacles to justice in these
cases, and seek needed funding to help implement such measures. The
meetings are one in a series of initiatives following the launch of Maze
of Injustice
, which described how Native women suffer alarmingly high
levels of rape, often at the hands of non-Native perpetrators.

One focus of the trip will be strengthening
an FY '10 Senate appropriations bill that earmarks funds to combat sexual
violence. The House version of the bill, which was recently passed
out of subcommittee, called for an unprecedented$64.4 billion
to bolster law enforcement and combat violence against women in Indian
Country. The group will also advocate passage of The Tribal Law and
Order Act, which clarifies jurisdiction between federal, state, tribal
and local governments, increases coordination between their law enforcement
agencies for responding to violent crime against Native Americans, requires
Attorneys to collect criminal data, documents the reasons for declining
to prosecute, and shares criminal history information with state and tribal

"Native women are still suffering sexual
assault at rates far disproportionate to women in the United States generally,"
said Larry Cox, executive director of AIUSA, who is joining Council members
to meet lawmakers. "Until Native women receive equal justice under
the law, the U.S. government must show its will to effect real change,
not just by appropriating funds but by changing policies and laws. The
crimes perpetrated against Native women are more than statistical horrors;
they are historical horrors that have been allowed to occur because of
years of our country's subjugation of Native peoples. Congress has
made great strides in the last two years, but significantly more work is
needed until Native women truly have the law on their side."

In the two years since the report's launch,
Congress has made some significant strides toward improving infrastructure
in Indian Country and helping combat sexual violence against Native women,
including holding a number of hearings in Washington and in the field that
have involved input from Native women advocates. The FY 2009 Omnibus
Appropriations Act included an increase of $235 million for the Indian
Health Service (IHS) and $85 million for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA),
with $25 million for tribal law enforcement in Indian country to be targeted
to addressing violence against women. The Tribal Law and Order
Act was reintroduced this year. And President Obama's stimulus package
allocated $990 million to improve infrastructure and healthcare in Indian
Country. Still, these improvements, while unprecedented, have not
yet led to actual change for Native women on the ground.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning
grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters,
activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human
rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates
and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice,
freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

Amnesty International is a global movement of millions of people demanding human rights for all people - no matter who they are or where they are. We are the world's largest grassroots human rights organization.

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